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Mannerism - Art History Information

Mannerism is a period of European painting, sculpture, architecture and decorative arts lasting from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520 until the arrival of the Baroque around 1600. Stylistically, it identifies a variety of individual approaches influenced by, and reacting to, the harmonious ideals associated with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and early Michelangelo. In contrast, Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities. The definition of Mannerism, and the phases within it, continue to be the subject of debate among art historians.

The term is also applied to some Late Gothic painters working in northern Europe from about 1500 to 1530, especially the Antwerp Mannerists and some currents of seventeenth-century literature, especially poetry.

Nomenclature
The word derives from the Italian maniera, or "style," which corresponds to an artist's characteristic "touch" or recognizable "manner". Artificiality, as opposed to Renaissance and Baroque naturalism, provides one of the common features of mannerist art. The lasting influence of the Italian Renaissance, as transformed by succeeding generations of artists, is another. The root of the term arose when Giorgio Vasari used the term 'maniera greca' to refer to the Byzantine style art, and he simply referred to maniera of Michelangelo.

As a stylistic label, "Mannerism" is not easily pigeonholed. It was first popularized by German art historians in the early twentieth-century to categorize the seemingly uncategorizable art of the Italian sixteenth century art that was no longer perceived to exhibit the harmonious and rational approaches associated with the High Renaissance.

The term is applied differently to a variety of different artists and styles. John Shearman, who championed the "stylish style" definition of Mannerism, defines it as characterized by an "exquisite and eye-catching display of artistic virtuosity, often eliding or occluding any further purpose" and places "the relevant artistic production in relation to the specific cultural milieu, that of the ultra-refined, hothouse court culture emerging in various sites in the early sixteenth century, marked by confident attitudes on the part of patrons and artists alike."

Anti-Classical
The early Mannerists especially Jacopo da Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino in Florence, Raphael's student in Rome Giulio Romano and Parmigianino in Parma are notable for elongated forms, exaggerated, out-of-balance poses, manipulated irrational space, and unnatural lighting. These artists matured under the influence of the High Renaissance, and their style has been characterized as a reaction or exaggerated extension of it. Therefore, this style is often identified as "anti-classical" mannerism.

Maniera
Subsequent mannerists stressed intellectual conceits and artistic ability, features that led early critics to accuse them of working in an unnatural and affected "manner" (maniera). These artists held their elder contemporary Michelangelo as their prime example. Giorgio Vasari, as artist and architect, exemplifies this strain of Mannerism lasting from about 1530 to 1580. Based largely at courts and in intellectual circles around Europe, it is often called the "stylish" style or the Maniera.

Mannerisms
After 1580 in Italy, a new generation of artists, including the Carracci, Caravaggio and Cigoli, reemphasized naturalism. Walter Friedlaender identified this period as "anti-mannerism", just as the early mannerists were "anti-classical" in their reaction to the High Renaissance. Outside of Italy, however, mannerism continued into the seventeenth century. In France it is known as the Henry II style and it had a particular impact on architecture. Important centers include the court of Rudolf II in Prague, as well as Haarlem and Antwerp.

Mannerism as a stylistic category is less frequently applied to English visual and decorative arts, where local categories such as "Elizabethan" and "Jacobean" are more common. Eighteenth-century Artisan Mannerism is one exception.

Historically regarded, Mannerism is a useful designation for sixteenth-century art that emphasizes artificiality over naturalism and reflects a growing self-consciousness of the artist.

History
Mannerism arose in the early 1500s alongside a number of other social, scientific, religious and political movements such as the Copernican model, the Sack of Rome, and the Protestant Reformation's increasing challenge to the power of the Catholic church. Because of this, the style's elongated forms and distorted forms have been often been interpreted as a reaction to the idealized compositions prevelant in High Renaissance art.

The early Mannerists are usually set in stark contrast to High Renaissance conventions; the immediacy and balance achieved by Raphael's School of Athens, no longer seemed relevant or appropriate. Mannerism developed among the pupils of two masters of the classical approach, with Raphael's assistant Giulio Romano and among the students of Andrea del Sarto, whose studio produced the quintessentially Mannerist painters Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. Michelangelo displayed tendencies towards Mannerism, notably in his vestibule to the Laurentian Library and the figures on his Medici tombs.

Mannerist centers in Italy were Rome, Florence and Mantua. Venetian painting, in its separate "school," pursued a separate course, represented in the long career of Titian.

In the mid to late 1500s Mannerism flourished at European courts, where it appealed to knowledgeable audiences with its arcane iconographic programs and sense of an artistic "personality". It reflects a growing trend in which a noticeable purpose of art was to inspire awe and devotion, and to entertain and educate.

Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari's opinions about the "art" of creating art come through in his praise of fellow artists in the great book that lay behind this frontispiece: he believed that excellence in painting demanded refinement, richness of invention (invenzione), expressed through virtuoso technique (maniera), and wit and study that appeared in the finished work, all criteria that emphasized the artist's intellect and the patron's sensibility. The artist was now no longer just a craftsman member of a local Guild of St Luke. Now he took his place at court with scholars, poets, and humanists, in a climate that fostered an appreciation for elegance and complexity. The coat-of-arms of Vasari's Medici patrons appear at the top of his portrait, quite as if they were the artist's own.

The framing of the engraved frontispiece to Mannerist artist Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists would be called "Jacobean" in an English-speaking context. In it, Michelangelo's Medici tombs inspire the anti-architectural "architectural" features at the top, the papery pierced frame, the satyr nudes at the base. In the vignette of Florence at the base, papery or vellum-like material is cut and stretched and scrolled into a cartouche (cartoccia). The design is self-conscious, overcharged with rich, artificially "natural" detail in physically improbable juxtapositions of jarring scale changes, overwhelming as a mere frame: Mannerist.

Gian Paolo Lomazzo
Another literary source from the period is Gian Paolo Lomazzo, who produced two works one practical and one metaphysical that helped define the Mannerist artist's self-conscious relation to his art. His Trattato dell'arte della pittura, scoltura et architettura (Milan, 1584) is in part a guide to contemporary concepts of decorum, which the Renaissance inherited in part from Antiquity but Mannerism elaborated upon. Lomazzo's systematic codification of aesthetics, which typifies the more formalized and academic approaches typical of the later 16th century, controlled a consonance between the functions of interiors and the kinds of painted and sculpted decors that would be suitable. Iconography, often convoluted and abstruse, is a more prominent element in the Mannerist styles. His less practical and more metaphysical Idea del tempio della pittura ("The ideal temple of painting", Milan, 1590) offers a description along the lines of the "four temperaments" theory of the human nature and personality, containing the explanations of the role of individuality in judgment and artistic invention.

Mannerist architecture
An example of mannerist architecture is the Villa Farnese at Caprarola in the rugged country side outside of Rome. The proliferation of engravers during the 16th century spread Mannerist styles more quickly than any previous styles. A center of Mannerist design was Antwerp during its 16th century boom. Through Antwerp, Renaissance and Mannerist styles were widely introduced in England, Germany, and northern and eastern Europe in general. Dense with ornament of "Roman" detailing, the display doorway at Colditz Castle exemplifies this northern style, characteristically applied as an isolated "set piece" against unpretentious vernacular walling.

Mannerism in literature and music
In English literature, Mannerism is commonly identified with the qualities of the "Metaphysical" poets of whom the most famous is John Donne. The witty sally of a Baroque writer, John Dryden, against the verse of Donne in the previous generation, affords a concise contrast between Baroque and Mannerist aims in the arts:
"He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy when he should engage their hearts and entertain them with the softnesses of love".

The word Mannerism has also been used to describe the style of highly florid and contrapuntally complex polyphonic music made in France in the late 14th century. This period is now usually referred to as the ars subtilior.